Ex-professional footballer, Josh Dugan, could potentially initiate legal proceedings against both the Cronulla Sharks and the NRL. This consideration arises subsequent to Dugan successfully disputing a significant police charge which ultimately led to the termination of his contract with Cronulla.
Back in September 2021, Josh Dugan found himself sacked by the Sharks. Six weeks still remained on his contract, which was prematurely nullified over allegations of multiple breaches of the NRL‘s COVID-19 policies. This development effectively put an abrupt end to the professional football career of the former NSW and Australia centre.
Dugan faced charges from the police when he was intercepted near Lithgow, a distance of 150 kilometres from his residential base in Gymea. This took place during the period of stringent lockdown in Greater Sydney. Merely forty minutes later, officers handed Dugan a second charge as he moved away from Sydney in the direction of his property in Yetholme.
On a recent Friday morning in the Lithgow Local Court, Magistrate Kasey Pearce delivered a verdict. Dugan was exonerated of the initial charge, but found culpable for the second. With regards to the latter, Dugan’s lawyer, Paul McGirr, signalled his intentions of appealing the conviction.
Illustrating the rationale for dismissing the first charge, McGirr clarified, “Basically, they couldn’t prove that he knew the laws, which I said nobody knew. The COVID lockdown laws were a joke, they were changing daily, sometimes twice daily.”
In relation to the second charge, McGirr asserted, “The magistrate said once he was given a direction he should have returned to Sydney. But I said that, on that basis, he was in the process of moving to another area and it’s maybe for another jurisdiction. She gave him a 10A, guilty of sequence two but no penalty.”
Expressing his criticisms of the laws, McGirr argued that, “The laws were ridiculous; the police were enforcing laws they didn’t even know they were doing. It cost Josh his career on the basis he was terminated on that basis. We will be looking into those particular actions of the club, being the Cronulla Sharks.”
The NRL slapped Dugan with a hefty fine of $50,000 for purportedly breaching biosecurity rules twice, and Cronulla cancelled his contract. Both of these actions will face thorough scrutiny following the court’s decision, according to McGirr.
McGirr plans to investigate this matter, stating, “We will be looking into it because he was dismissed on this basis. We will be looking to recoup some of those monies in relation to the fine that found he wasn’t actually guilty of the particular first offence. That is what started all of this.”
Commenting on the approach of corporations, including the NRL, he criticised, “These corporations appear to be taking a guilty-before-proven-innocent attitude. It should be the total opposite.”
Following this verdict, Josh Dugan may take legal action against the NRL as he was punished for an offence he was subsequently cleared of. His verdict echoes a previous case where Cronulla came to a settlement with Todd Carney, a former Dally M medallist who sued the club for unjust dismissal after a notorious 2014 incident. Carney had been seeking approximately $2.4 million in damages before the parties settled for an undisclosed sum.
In losing his contract with Cronulla, Dugan was estimated to have missed out on $120,000, the unsettled remaining payment for the 2021 season. After he was charged with breach of ‘Apollo’ protocols twice, the Sharks followed with a statement at the time of his departure saying they would make no further comment on the matter.
Cronulla Sharks was approached for their statement on the matter, but declined to comment.